I have some sympathy with Yahoo! CEO Marissa
Mayer’s opposition to home working on the basis that it impairs collaboration and innovation. There are clearly times whenworking from home lets you get more done, more quickly. But it is equally true that you lose something if you no longer have face-to-face interaction with colleagues. In a recent survey by Overbury (see page 5), 61% of respondents said their best ideas came from unplanned conversations with colleagues.
With the right to request flexible working being extended to all employees in 2014, employers that haven’t already done so must quickly develop a flexible working strategy for their business. When doing so, they shouldn’t forget the needs and wishes of office-based staff. I have seen many workplaces that have everything a flexible workforce could desire, from touchdown points and break-out areas to eye-catching designer furniture and the latest IT.
All too often, the only thing lacking is atmosphere. Flexible working is rightly seen as a way to attract and retain employees. So is a lively office environment. Almost four out of 10 respondents to the Overbury survey said their office was demotivating, with 25% describing it as ‘sedate and silent’. The most popular prescription was to create more areas where staff can congregate. Yet, social space is wasted space if there’s no one in the office to share it.